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Conservation Corner: Litter, litter and more litter

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By Tom Deverin

Litter is like sunshine, it is everywhere. Energy Advisory Panel members volunteered to assist our school children with the Route 24 Adopt-A-Highway program and  a clean-up at the City Marina on Jan. 12 and 14, respectively. Once you pick-up roadside and community litter you seem to notice it more.  It really is pretty much everywhere.
Fourteen large trash bags of litter were collected on the Route 24 clean-up but the likes of a car bumper and 2 year old political signs were not bagged.  In the vegetated areas around the marina we picked up six large trash bags of litter, mostly beverage containers and plastic bags. Two very full bags came from the small patch of mangrove in front of the Fire Station. Many residents and visitors, upon seeing the volunteers cleaning up, would take the time to thank everyone for their efforts. The kids really appreciated that. Then for the perfect end to the marina clean up event, Bryan Skarupski, one of the Big Deck owners, bought lunch for all of the volunteers. The teenagers really, really appreciated that.  Thank you Mr. Bryan! Plus the students qualify for Environmental Scholarship points and community service hours.
About 55-percent of littering is intentional. Ten-percent of people surveyed now admit to intentional littering, just throwing it out the vehicle window. Things are improving however.  In 1968 when asked the same question, 50-percent of the people said that they did litter. A study showed that 80-percent of the roadside litter is “gifted” to the rest of us by males. The other ways that litter ends up on the side of the road or on a beach is negligent or unintentional littering. Boaters that do not secure their trash would be a good example. Drive behind boats leaving Cedar Key, once the driver gets up to speed all types of paper and plastic bags start blowing out of the boat. Or on a windy day a trash can blows over and the trash blows all over. No matter how it gets there it is still litter and unsightly.
The roadside litter, unless it is picked up will be there for a long time. It takes a plastic bag from ten to 20 years to breakdown, and aluminum can from 100 to 200 years, plastic beverage containers up to 100 years. When the kids last did the Adopt-A-Highway program, at the corner of Route 24 and 2nd Street, they found a treasure trove of cigarette butts. The children were very diligent and picked all of them up. So smokers please be aware that cigarette butts are litter and that it will take from one to five years for that butt to decompose.
There would be a lot more litter if it were not for the several folks that pick it up when they walk around our beautiful Islands. It has been proven that if an area has no litter people will tend not to litter in that area. We’re thankful for the weekly dedication of Mr. Ed who alone picks up litter along a six mile stretch of Route 24.  The Adopt-A-Highway sign reads Friends of Stu.
All of the actions by these folks are the essence of community service. You see something that needs to be done and you do it. No meetings or committees, no fanfare, just getting the task at hand done. Cheers to all of you. This is one of the best attributes of our little City.  People are willing to help, willing to devote time and resources for the betterment of our community. We are all truly blessed to live here; even if there is some litter.